Discovery: Electric Guest


In our search for a summer album, we came across Mondo, the debut LP from Electric Guest. Part retro funk, part synth-pop, Electric Guest is fronted by Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton. You may already know a few facts about the California band—that Danger Mouse [aka Brian Burton] produced their album, that Asa’s older brother co-wrote the song “Dick in a Box.” And we’re sure you will learn more soon; the boys played on David Letterman last week and are dominating the “next big thing” lists.  Consequently, Interview wanted to dig a little deeper under the surface and tackle important topics such as Guns ‘n Roses, sharks, and Cyndi Lauper.

HOMETOWNS: Berkeley, CA (Taccone) Danville, VA (Compton)

AGE: Early 30s

LOCATION AT TIME OF INTERVIEW: A van in Richmond, Virginia.

WHICH ELECTRIC GUEST SONG SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO FIRST?  Taccone: I’d play “Control,” I think it goes with the vibe of the album really strongly. We always like to play this one song “Holes,” which is probably people’s least favorite song, because it has that off-kilter synth, it’s jarring for some people. It’s a polarizing song, people either really like or are like, “What the fuck is this?”
I’d say “Amber.”

WORST DESCRIPTION OF THEIR MUSIC: Taccone: I don’t even want to repeat it, it was such a bummer. Someone said it was like some mashup of Maroon 5. They meant it as a compliment, but…

A BLOSSOMING FRIENDSHIP: Compton: We both moved to LA about seven years ago. Asa lived in this house, which was kind of an artist house; it had a lot of people coming in and out—directors, musicians. I was coming over to play with one of Asa’s roommates, there was a recording studio in the basement. Asa heard me play some drums on some stuff and asked me “Will you put some drums on this song?” I’d always heard him working on his music in his room upstairs and I always loved it. We became really good friends, pretty much immediately. I kept coming over more and more to play. I was living in West Hollywood at the time.

A HOUSE FULL OF MUSICIANS: It’s almost cliché in the area we live in—East Los Angeles. It’s where a lot of young artists live and everyone is so broke that they have to have a ton of roommates. The house that I moved into was Brian [Burton]’s old house. He’s moving up in the world and he had gotten his own place, finally, so I ended up moving into his old room. Because we needed to fill more space rent-wise, more and more kids just came into the house and it filled up. Everybody had their own little camp of friends and was in different bands, so there ended up being a lot of traffic. [The house] was disgusting! There was carpet in every room and in the bathroom, [which] hadn’t been changed since the late ’70s.
I ended up moving in after a year. [It had] a massive living room, all that was in the living room was a couch, this gianormous TV and then a baby grand pink piano.

FIRST EVER SHOW: Taccone: It was actually on April 20th  [last year], which is 4/20, in a 4/20 night in Long Beach, California. We didn’t want to play in LA, we didn’t tell any of our friends or our manager or anybody hardly. A few friends came down, but there were not a lot of people there. Did we celebrate the anniversary? I don’t think we’ve had time to celebrate anything. We didn’t even have time to do a proper album release party. The day our album came out, we were busting ass to get to Denver for our first show of this tour.

MUSIC & EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Compton: I remember being a kid and hearing Sam Cooke and thinking something about his voice was so silky and pure, and really being moved by it. But at the same time, I used to listen to a lot of metal. When I was in fifth grade, I was taking a math test in class and I was obsessed with Guns ‘n Roses—Appetite for Destruction especially—I was trying to take the test and I couldn’t, the music was playing in my head so loud. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing. I was like “I have to stop listening to this album.” I didn’t listen to it for an entire year because it consumed me so much. That album in general, when you open up the sleeve… it was like, “Oh my god, this is adult shit.  My parents don’t know what’s on this album, all the cussing. They would flip out if they knew. “Growing up in Virginia, [Guns ‘n Roses] was like nothing you’d ever seen before—”Who are these guys? I’m scared of them, but I’m so into it.”
The same thing kind of thing happened to me. I remember my dad telling me once some classic stupid parent thing, “If you studied your homework the way you study those 2Pac lyrics, you might be doing better in school!” I listened to a lot of hip-hop growing up, but I do remember my dad playing that song by The Band, “The Weight.” As a very young kid, you don’t really understand why [music] is affecting you emotionally, especially with music that’s sad, there’s a melancholy aspect to some of the chord changes [in “The Weight”]. I remember feeling so emotional as a kid, but not really having any kind of experience to go off of. It’s just a kind of human thing.

FIRST LOVE: Compton: I remember seeing Cyndi Lauper sing “Time After Time” live. It was the first time I ever felt the feeling of love, of being crazy attracted to a female. [laughs] I just remember feeling super… super weird. [laughs]

MOST AWKWARD INTERVIEW QUESTION: Taccone: This guy asked us “What’s the deal on the road, are you guys just going crazy on shit, just hooking up? What’s your deal?” He really wanted a specific answer, he was like “Oh I see, I see. You guys are hiding something.” No, we just don’t want to be those dudes who are like, “We go crazy on shit.”

PLAYING ON DAVID LETTERMAN: Taccone: Even though, when we played Letterman, Matthew’s kick-drum pedal broke three-fourths of the way through the song, and even though that day I woke up and my voice was gone, I think we pulled it off. It was pretty cool. Did we get to meet Anderson Cooper? No. It was supposed to be Khloe Kardashian, [laughs], so he just came in last minute, which I think we were thankful for.

THE ABILITY TO BREATHE UNDER WATER VS. TIME TRAVEL: Taccone: [I’d] definitely rather breathe underwater. You start time traveling… you’re essentially playing god, it would be too much. I don’t think your brain could handle it.

FAVORITE AQUARIUM ATTRACTION: Compton: I always like to see the sharks.
I saw one of the only great white sharks in captivity in the Monterey aquarium. That shit was insane. It’s kind of sad—a lot of [sharks] end up having heart attacks when they get transferred in or out of the water. It’s too stressful for them. It makes me think of human beings—human beings put them in crazy situations. If I were a shark, I’d definitely be dead by now.

F, MARRY, KILL—MUSICAL GENRE EDITION: Compton: I think I’d fuck R & B. I might marry country—they would take care of me, we’d make amazing country meals together. I’d kill the Juggalos, is that a genre? I’d kill rock-rap. Boom.
Taccone: [pauses] I feel like the metaphor goes deeper—Matt already went into what genre of music would be a good wife. [laughs] I might marry some singer-songwriter folk. I’m not a big fan of Ska, maybe the roots of it, but not as it came into the West and got kind of butchered. I guess [I’d also] fuck R&B because it would probably be a good time.

IF YOU COULD BRING BACK ANY FASHION TREND… Taccone: I’d bring back overalls. [laughs]
Purple overalls.

IN FIVE YEARS: Taccone: Physically, we’d like to be more attractive. Hopefully we’ll have the money to make that happen. I think we both want to be making music, that’s the dream.